TALLAHASSEE, FL – Over the past year, Florida has made unprecedented advancements in securing Florida’s election system, protecting our historical and cultural resources, promoting library programs and streamlining business entity filings, as a result of leadership and investments from Governor Ron DeSantis.
“Hardening Florida’s digital infrastructure, including our elections system’s security, has been a top priority of my administration,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud of the work we have done across the state to ensure that Florida’s votes are counted accurately and fairly in 2020.”
“Governor DeSantis’ bold leadership this year has given the Florida Department of State the tools to enhance the quality of life for all Floridians. Through the Governor’s support, the department will continue to protect Florida’s elections system, preserve our historical and cultural resources, promote our libraries, and simplify Florida’s business filings,” said Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee. “The Governor’s extraordinary vision for our state will enrich the lives of Floridians for generations to come.”
Some of the key accomplishments of the Florida Department of State in 2019 include:
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Florida has made significant investments in election security and enhanced collaboration between the Florida Department of State and Florida’s 67 local Supervisors of Elections.
- Joint Election Security Initiative – On May 22, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis directed Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee to initiate a review of elections systems security throughout the state in order to ensure Florida’s elections infrastructure at the state and local level is protected. The Joint Election Security Initiative (JESI) established a framework for all 67 counties to carefully control access to sensitive and classified information within their offices while also allowing them to share sensitive information with the Florida Department of State regarding security policies and any attempted breaches that may happen in the future. This comprehensive information sharing initiative is a considerable undertaking and an area where Florida is leading the nation.
- Cyber Navigator Program – The Department of State hired five full-time Cyber Navigators to provide on-going cybersecurity support to County Supervisors of Elections’ offices under the Joint Elections Security Initiative. Governor DeSantis’ recommended budget for 2020 expands that program to ten full-time cybersecurity professionals.
- Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) – Governor DeSantis directed the Florida Department of State to join ERIC, an information-sharing initiative between 30 states that will allow Florida to cross-check voter registration data with that of other member states. This will facilitate Florida’s ongoing efforts to identify duplicate registrations, voters who have moved, and voters who have passed away. ERIC will be an invaluable tool for ensuring more accurate and current voter rolls while reducing the potential of fraud.
- Executive Order Allowing Gulf and Bay Counties Needed Flexibility for Voting Sites in 2020 – The Florida Department of State worked closely with Gulf and Bay counties to identify appropriate voting sites for the 2020 election cycle. Hurricane Michael damaged many of the buildings used for polling places in these counties and displaced many of the volunteers who worked those sites in previous years.
- Restoration of Voting Rights Work Group – SB 7066, which was signed into law by Governor DeSantis, established the Restoration of Voting Rights Work Group within the Florida Department of State for the purpose of conducting a comprehensive review of the department’s process of verifying registered voters who have been convicted of a felony, but who may be eligible for restoration of voting rights under s. 4, Art. VI of the State Constitution.
Military and Veterans Outreach
- Creative Forces Program – The Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA) partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans’ hospitals, Americans for the Arts, James Haley Veterans Hospital and the Straz Center for Performing Arts to expand Creative Forces, the NEA Military Healing Arts Network, which explores creative art therapies for veterans and their families. Of the eleven nationwide Creative Forces clinical sites, Florida is the only state with two: Tampa’s James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Gainesville’s North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System.
Supporting Florida Business Owners
- Streamlined Business Filing Requirements – Governor DeSantis signed a comprehensive revision of the Florida Business Corporation Act. The Division of Corporations worked in conjunction with The Florida Bar to modernize the Act’s filing requirements for corporate business owners in Florida.
- Improved Business Filing Security and Efficiency – The Division of Corporations has finalized negotiations with a vendor to provide an updated system through which business entities will be able to process their business filings more efficiently and securely.
Resources and Training in Support of STEM Education
- STEM Training for Adults and Teens at Libraries – To support a critical need for people with coding and robotics skills in the workforce, the Division of Library and Information Services has distributed grants to public libraries around the state that have allowed libraries to teach computer coding to teens and purchase materials from makerspace supplies to robots for science education. DLIS also partnered with NASA to provide science literacy training and resources for Florida public library staff which has allowed libraries to enhance STEM programming available to adults and youth in their communities.
Preserving and Promoting Florida’s Rich Historical and Cultural Resources
- Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health Florida Conference –This conference connected people working and thinking at the intersections of the arts, public health and community development with the overarching goal of creating stronger and healthier communities through the arts. The Department of State granted $35,000 through the DCA/NEA partnership program to co‑present this conference in partnership with the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, United Arts of Central Florida, ArtPlace America and hosted by the Pabst Steinmetz Foundation and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
- Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Months Art Contests – The Florida Department of State assisted First Lady DeSantis with the selection of winning art in honor of Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month submitted by more than 400 of Florida’s schoolchildren. The Division of Cultural Affairs secured loans of paintings by the artists and displayed them at the Governor’s Mansion.
- 50th Anniversary of the Division of Cultural Affairs –DCA celebrated its 50th year of supporting and promoting Florida’s diverse arts and culture community. Since 1976, when DCA was granted the authority to administer grants funded by the State of Florida and NEA, more than $787 million in grant funding has been distributed to every corner of the state in support of the division’s mission to advance, support, and promote arts and culture to strengthen the economy and quality of life for all Floridians.
- Mary McLeod Bethune Portrait to Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery – DLIS, State Archives of Florida, loaned an original photographic portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune to Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery for their exhibition Votes for Women.
- Invisible Lives Tours Program at The Grove Museum – Historians and curators at The Grove Museum worked with community partners to develop the Invisible Lives tours program, which educates the public about the history of slavery and the contributions of African Americans to the Tallahassee area and the United States.
- National Register of Historic Places – The Division of Historical Resources as Florida’s State Historical Preservation Office has registered 25 individual properties, three historic districts, and one cemetery on the National Register in 2019.
- Manasota Key Offshore Archaeological Site – The Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research, completed the first phase of archaeological research at the Manasota Key Offshore archaeological site, a 7,000 year-old prehistoric site in the Gulf of Mexico. This site and its landscape have the potential to shed significant light on some of Florida’s earliest inhabitants.
- Archaeological Artifact Collections Database – The Bureau of Archaeological Research implemented a state-of-the-art archaeological artifact collections database, which will provide scholars and the public with new, robust avenues of access to Florida’s extensive archaeological history.
- The Florida Folklife Program 40th Anniversary – The program celebrated its 40th anniversary over Memorial Day weekend at the Florida Folk Festival at the Stephen Foster Culture Area Park in White Springs. Established in 1953, the Florida Folk Festival is the longest-running state folk festival in the nation. The festival features 10 stages, 300 performers, and welcomes nearly 8,000 attendees.
- 50th Anniversary Commemoration Apollo 11 Moon Landing – The Florida Department of State facilitated an initiative to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Through collaboration with each of the department’s museum properties, DLIS, DHR, and DCA, throughout the summer the department provided spaced-themed programming and activities, museum exhibits and classroom and student resources.
Exhibits & Collections
- Risner Fine Art Collection – The Museum of Florida History completed the documentation of a significant collection of Florida landscapes (163 artworks) recently donated by Palm Beach County resident and art collector Ron Risner. The works show the diversity and beauty of Florida’s natural environment, span more than a century, and depict landscapes from the Panhandle to the Keys. This collection is presented to the public in a new exhibit, Florida Inspired—Landscapes from the Risner Fine Art Collection, that opened in November.
Educational & Public Programs
- Florida History Day – In May 2019, 1,313 people participated in the Florida History Day state contest organized by the Museum of Florida History. The contest was the culmination of school and county competitions in which 54,226 middle and high school students statewide were involved. Nearly 2,000 people attended the awards ceremony and 802 participants visited the Museum of Florida History during their time in Tallahassee.
- Summer Reading Program – In June and July 2019, 275 people attended the Summer Reading Program series for children presented by the Museum of Florida History. Museum curators worked with other local organizations to present programming related to the space theme, A Universe of Stories. Children learned about navigation, astronauts, spaceships, and rockets. Children also were able to view the Museum’s special, short-term display on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Mission San Luis
- Summer Break Spot Food Program – From June 3, 2019 – July 26, 2019, Mission San Luis Living History Museum participated in the federally funded Summer Break Spot Program. Partnering with the Leon County School Board, Mission San Luis distributed nutritious lunches four days a week and provided an educational program or craft twice a week. Also, once each week, a Mission San Luis living history interpreter had lunch with the children, providing an educational program during that time.
Supporting State Agencies
- Records Storage Options for Agencies in Areas Impacted by Hurricane Michael – The State Records Center developed an expanded geographic service area that, effective July 1, 2019, provides agencies in those areas most heavily impacted by Hurricane Michael with secure and cost-effective records transport and storage services.
- Historic and Archaeological Compliance and Review – Florida is experiencing increased state and federal development, and those projects require thorough and efficient review to protect potential historic and archaeological sites. The Compliance and Review Section at DOS performed more reviews than at any time since 2007 this year, likely reaching more than 10,000 reviews by the end of 2019.